Chuck – Chuck Berry (review)

Chuck Berry. The name means so much: rock and roll, some of the finest guitar playing known, inventive and playful songs. 

To think that everyone from Buddy Holly to The Beatles covered his songs is mind-blowing. Without Chuck Berry the world would be a different place. 

I was lucky enough to see Chuck Berry live on one of his later trips to London. Even in old age, he played the guitar like no one else, attacking the strings, duck-walking and bouncing off of the audience reaction. 

I was thrilled to write a review of his last album, Chuck, for Songwriting Magazine. Read it here.

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Bob Dylan: Chronologically 

The other day, I was speaking to someone about Michael Connelly, the fantastic crime writer who has a new book out called The Late Show. 

‘Where should I start?’ they asked, after considering my suggestion. 

This got me thinking. 

Michael Connelly has created a parrel Los Angeles. Often, characters from different books appear in different places: a long forgotten detective can appear in a new book without warning. His most famous creation, Harry Bosch, is now featured in an Amazon Prime show called Bosch

The first Michael Connelly book I read was The Poet, which doesn’t feature Harry Bosch. When it came to reading the Bosch books, I read these out of sequence. 

Ultimately, my answer was ‘start at the beginning.’ (Which was advice I admittedly did not follow). In this case, start with the first of the Harry Bosch book series – The Black Echo. You will then see how the character – and writer – develops. 

So what does this have to do with Bob Dylan?

I’ve been a lifelong Bob Dylan fan. Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad playing Dylan records for me. They formed a part of my childhood, like nursery rhymes, I suppose. However, I’d never listened to Bob Dylan’s albums in chronological order. Maybe this would enable me to see how Bob Dylan develops as a songwriter? 

If you’re a Dylan fan, some of his albums you’ll have listened to reluctantly, or avoided completely. I want to give each of these albums the same amount of time, in the correct order. Maybe I’ll learn something.

I will be listening to studio albums only – which means no Bootleg Series – in order of the UK date of release. 

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June Playlist

A lot of new music has come to my attention recently, since I’ve been writing here and at Songwriting Magazine.

I’ve been sent albums, EP’s and singles from musicians all across the musical spectrum, which is great. I’ve reviewed some of these albums and songs. Some of them I haven’t been able to write about yet. I thought it would be a good idea to create a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs from this month.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of these tracks:

  1. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan: My dad has always said that this is the song to test speakers. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to start the playlist with this song. I wrote about the Greil Marcus book, Like a Rolling Stone, on this blog.
  2. Ordinary Daze – Sea Pinks: Dream-pop, guitar-pop. A perfect song for a breezy summers day. Thoughts on Sea Pinks latest here.
  3. Asphalt Outlaw Hero – Lonnie Mack: I haven’t written about Lonnie Mack yet. But I’ve been wearing down his records recently.
  4. Hot Electrolytes – Love Ssega: A manic four minutes, which will raise a smile. Review here.
  5. Cormorant Bird – Fionn Regan: Super song. Appears on Fionn Regan’s long-awaited latest album, which I wrote about here.
  6. All Around The World – Little Willie John
  7. Love Survive – Michael Nau
  8. Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl – Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator was a change in direction for Hurray for the Riff Raff. The rhythmic build up is perfect. I wrote about The Navigator here.
  9. California Stars – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  10. Such a Night (With Clyde McPhatter) – The Drifters: I’ve been on a Clyde McPhatter binge after reading about Money Honey in Greil Marcus’ book Like a Rolling Stone. Marcus gives us a beautiful description about McPhatter’s vocals. I had to listen to the early Drifters songs and rediscover McPhatter.
  11. Soothing – Laura Marling
  12. Mental Cruelty – John Prine and Kacey Musgraves
  13. Far Below – Maria Kelly: Etheral Irish folk. Haunting music from Maria Kelly’s latest EP The Things I Should, which I’ve reviewed.
  14. Et Si Tu n’existais Pas – Iggy Pop
  15. The Best is Yet to Come – Bob Dylan
  16. Babushka-Yai Ya – Fionn Regan: Blisteringly fast. You can almost hear Regan scrawling the lyrics on the back of a cardboard beermat. Read all about it.
  17. Fire and Brimstone – Link Wray

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Like a Rolling Stone – Greil Marcus

Perhaps it is strange to start a website dedicated to music with a post about a book. But then that is the intention of this page: to catch the glimpses of music, be it in film, books, LP’s, radio or in nature. Whatever it is – or wherever it comes from – it will be pure, unadulterated noise.

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago when I was in the middle of nowhere. Greil Marcus writes about music reverently and with this work he takes us through the times and era that Bob Dylan recorded and released Like a Rolling Stone.

One thing which struck me from reading this account was how the master take of Like a Rolling Stone almost didn’t happen. Reaching for a bootleg of the session when I got back, I listened whilst reading Marcus’ blow by blow account. During the first few stabs at the song Dylan’s voice cracks, the musicians lose it. Then out of nowhere, the take is nailed and the song reaches levels which are rarely captured on tape. Then, bizarrely, several more takes are recorded. For an artist as notoriously fickle as Dylan, who has dropped tracks such as Blind Willie McTell from albums, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that he may have lost hope with the song and left it on the cutting room floor.

For someone who wasn’t born in those times, it is impossible to imagine Like a Rolling Stone being played on the radio for the first time. I guess this book is the closest we can get to actually being there. Greil Marcus gives us a snapshot of the period: a time shortly after the assasination of Malcolm X, the conflict in Vietnam escalating and the Civil Rights Movement in full flow with Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Would a song such as this have been created in anything but a turbulant time?